A Travellerspoint blog

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Cheese?? Yes Please!

Who doesn't love cheese?

semi-overcast 16 °C

Early to rise and queue up for today’s excursion – the Catacombs. These underground tunnels are abandoned quarries from the 15th century and the Catacombs were created in the late 18th century. The first bones were transferred there from the largest Parisian cemetery at the time. It was hard to believe how many bones were down there.

Getting to the Catacombs was an easy trip on the metro – 20 minutes door to door. I think A.J. thought I was being too eager to get there as early as we did, but when we did arrive, there were people already in line in front of us. Lol. The cost of admission was 14 Euros.

We headed back to the apartment to make a short pit stop before heading back out to Jardins des Tuileries and up to the Champs Elysees. We even enjoyed another crepe for lunch – fromage et jambon! Soooo yummy! At the end of the Champs Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe. As we climbed up the 272 steps to the top for a great lookout over the city, it had started to rain – go figure! The rain was short lived and we were able to enjoy the rest of the visit.

The next stop: Sacre-Coeur and the Montmartre area. We took the metro headed up the hill to the famous church. This area is so cool to walk around – very quaint, very French, very artistic and a cheap place to get some souvenir stuff. We walked passed the Moulin Rouge simply for a photo op.

Once again we headed back to the apartment via the metro for another pit stop and to drop off a few purchases. Museum d’Orsay and Museum Rodin were the next stops on today’s itinerary. We wanted to make sure we get our money’s worth on our Paris Museum Pass. The Pass also helps to save time because in many cases you get to by-pass the queue…and when time is limited – this is HUGE! We practically had the Rodin Museum to ourselves because it was almost closing time when we got there. We still had a sufficient amount of time to see all the outdoor sculptures…and engage in some photographic shenanigans. Lol. But don’t touch the sculptures!!!

Dinner time…and time for more cheese! French Onion Soup (or just onion soup when in France) and croque monsieur. We even had wine with dinner. There are many restaurants and cafes around our apartment – it was difficult to choose. But any place that serves cheese with cheese on top works for me!

Lots of ground covered today. Step count: 34 773

Posted by moorsey88 13:16 Archived in France Comments (0)

Take the Umbrella – Just in Case

Where is the Sun?

semi-overcast 17 °C

The weather this morning looked promising, but we always take the umbrella – just in case. We strolled along the River Seine and headed to Saint Chapelle – a church with stunning stained glass that is arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high. The stained glass panes depict 1 113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris. There were security check points just like at an airport before going inside. This place was also included in the Paris Museum Pass. I definitely recommend purchasing this pass if you are going to be in the city for a few days and want to see many of the famous museums and attractions.

We walked passed Hotel d’Ville – a good photo op – on the way to find a cell phone place to purchase new SIM cards for our phones. The guy in the store was really helpful, installing them for us. This was a really good thing to do, therefore, we have full use of our phones, just like at home.

Our Museum Pass also included entry into the Louvre – but with a time entry. This feature was added this summer to help with crowd congestion inside the museum. I booked an entry time online the night before and had the *ticket* emailed to me and simply had to show the ticket from my phone at the front entrance to gain access. Another advantage for getting an European SIM card.

I have a bit of a *shelf life* inside a museum…so within 1 hour and 15 minutes, we were able to see what we wanted to see. It was actually more entertaining to watch the whackload of people queuing up to get a picture of the Mona Lisa. Easy folks…she is not going anywhere – she is attached to the wall! Lots of time.

Even with my 5th trip to Paris, I have taken a ton of photos. I am trying some more *artistic* shots…so that may explain some of the black and white photos or the colour accent shots. It would also explain the 600+ pics I have taken to this point in our trip! Haha.

We continued our journey along the Seine and stopped at a restaurant for a late lunch…with wine. It was cheaper than pop! And lunch included more cheese! It was so yummy.

After lunch, we stopped at Pont d’Alma – which is a still a shrine and memorial for Princess Diana. It was under this bridge where the car accident occurred claiming her life back in 1997.

Oh look at that….there’s the Eiffel Tower. We had finally made our way over to that part of the city. There are many changes here, primarily due to security reasons. You can not just walk under the Tower anymore. There is airport type security and the perimeter of the Tower is completely surrounded by a plexi-glass fenced barricade. It looked like you can only gain access if you were a ticket holder to go to the very top (26 Euros). We did not go there. I think the view is much better on top of Montparnasse Tower, where we went on the first day of arrival.

Champ de Mars is the green space where the Eiffel Tower is located. We walked thru this park to Invalide – the place where Napoleon’s tomb is housed. Something very BIG for such a small Frenchman. Lol. This place looked great with the sun shining upon it! Yes, the sun is shining! Put the umbrellas away…for now.

Step count once back to the apartment…26 292

Posted by moorsey88 10:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

No Umbrella Today – Well For Now!

Final Full Day in Paris

sunny 16 °C

Time to visit Quasimodo and the Phantom of the Opera at the Palais Royale – also known as the Paris Opera House. It was very opulent inside – marble, velvet and gold. The admission was 12 Euros and it was not included in our Paris Museum Pass.

We arrived at the Opera House before it opened so we chilled in a nearby café for a *chocolat chaud et chocolat croissant*. The croissant was fresh out of the oven and still warm. The chocolate was soft and gooey and the pastry melted in your mouth. Can you taste it? Haha.

Next excursion for the day was to hop on the train and head to Chateau Versailles – which also included some live on-board entertainment in the form of a busker performer playing French music on an accordion, singing and dancing…sort of. Then of course, he toted his cup to all the passengers looking for a tip.

When we were in line in front of the Palace entrance, I realized our 48 hour Paris Museum Pass was rapidly approaching *said 48 hours*…uh oh! It would not be *the end of the world* - we would just have to pay for admission (18 Euros) then get in the queue again. We calculated the time we purchased the Museum Pass on Wednesday @ the Arc de Triomphe by looking at our photos. Thankfully we made it through with only a couple minutes to spare. Haha.

The Palace of Versailles has been listed as a World Heritage Site for 30 years and is one of the greatest achievements in 17th century French art. A succession of kings continued to embellish the Palace up until the French Revolution. Today the Palace contains 2,300 rooms – again opulent and very regal as you would think any royal palace should be.

The last time I was here, the fountains were not operational because it was not a weekend. So to my delight, today, we learned that 3 of the fountains were working despite being a weekday. So we paid the additional 9 Euros for access to the gardens and to see the fountains. They cycle through every 10-15 mintues. Ok…we waited…and waited…and waited…and nope. Nothing. We asked an employee and he told us they were having *technical difficulties* and that they were “working on it”. Well, we were not going to wait all afternoon to the see if the problem got resolved…we still had things we needed to do. We did ask for a refund but were told we had to email our request…we will give it a try, but I’m not holding my breath. So the Versailles Fountains continue to elude me.

Train ride back to Paris and disembarked at the Eiffel Tower to get the one hour boat cruise tour along the River Seine (15 Euros). The river is always a good way to see the city from a different perspective and if your time is limited…or if you do not like to walk! We had fun seeing how many people we could get to wave at us from the passing bridges and river banks!!!

We took the metro to the Latin Quarter area of the city for dinner and enjoyed a fantastic Italian meal…I think I needed to give my body a break from all the cheese! Haha. We walked back to the apartment under the illumination of all the buildings at night along the Seine – very cool.

It’s Friday night – our final night in Paris. Au Revoir. Step count: 25 823

Posted by moorsey88 13:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

Break Out the Shorts

26 Degrees - NICE!

sunny 26 °C

Sometimes getting to the airport can be a snap or a bit of a challenge…and even more of a challenge when a train strike commences on the morning of your departure. This is another reason to always give yourself plenty of time to journey your way to the airport. This morning we left our apartment en route for Charles de Gaulle Airport for our flight to Barcelona. Who knows what we have in store upon arrival in Barcelona due to the Catalonia protests taking over the streets in and around the city. The airport was a location of the main protests earlier in the week cancelling many flights. We were lucky – our flight left on time. All part of the adventure! Haha. It may make for some interesting blog entries. A.J. was not worried – he figured he did not have to outrun any protestors…just had to outrun ME! haha.

Our flight through British Airways operated by Vueling Airlines (never flown this airline before) left with a short delay. We were able to get emergency exit row seats for a small fee upon check in – but sooooo worth it! Extra leg room and priority boarding. Flight time to Barcelona was 1 hour 30 minutes. We caught the Aerobus to the city centre to Plaza de Catalunya for 6 Euros. From there it was a short walk to our apartment – thank you Google maps! No protestors – no nothing – all good – so far – fingers crossed!

After checking into our amazing apartment we set out to explore this vibrant city. First stop….more gelato! We continued to the port and then up Las Rambla where we enjoyed a great dinner a huge ass pail of sangria. This city has such a great vibe – despite any crap from protestors – we haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary!

A quick walk from Plaza de Catalunya up to Casa Batllo for some amazing Gaudi architecture. This was definitely a must see in this city... we will hopefully see more in the next few days while we are here!

We found a grocery store to stock up on supplies – rum, coke, snacks, ice, milk and of course a jug of sangria – the staples on any travelling journey! We ended the evening with a quick dip in our roof top pool - not heated....so it was perfect for any good Canadian! We took the plunge! haha.

Step count: 16 825…after all it was a travel day!

Posted by moorsey88 13:26 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Sundays in Spain are for Sipping Sangria

First Full Day in Barcelona

sunny 26 °C

We started off the day by joining a free walking tour leaving from Plaza Catalunya @ 10:00 a.m. for the Gothic Quarter (the oldest part of Barcelona). I have taken many of these types of tours all over the world and at the end of the tour, you decide how much it was worth. Keep in mind, if you do not show your appreciation toward the guide with a gratuity, they do not get paid. Our tour last 2 ½ hours and Franco, our guide (originally from Chile), was very energetic and enthusiastic about his city – he made the tour lots of fun! There was an opportunity for a break at a local bar where it seemed very appropriate to get some sangria (only 5 Euros) – and then I was able to put it in a take away cup when the break was over! Who doesn’t love a *traveller*? Haha.

The tour provided a fantastic historical recount of some of the major events in Spanish history - even how the 1992 Summer Olympics were a pivotal factor in the revitalization of this city. There was never a true beach in this city. Prior to the Olympics, they figured they would make a beach. Where would they find that much sand? Egypt. They actually brought in the desert sand - and presto - a beach was born!

Another funny observation I made during the tour about the participants. We were all asked to introduce ourselves and tell everyone where we were from. So here goes….Canada, South Africa, Poland, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, Israel, India…and Detroit. Why??? Americans always do this! It made me laugh.

People have been asking me how safe we are due to the political protests. Police everywhere. I feel very safe. No protests. No bombing. No violence. Does not mean it is not happening – the shenanigans may be happening at night. This morning we noticed a few stores that had broken windows. We have not seen any disturbances and have not been subject to any delays. Guess we are lucky. Earlier last week might have been a different story.

After our walking tour, we headed to Park Güell via use of the city’s metro network. We purchased a 10-ride ticket for 10 Euros (good deal). Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and interesting and unique architectural elements. It was here that architect Antoni Gaudí turned his hand to landscape gardening. It is a strange, enchanting place where his passion for natural forms really took flight and the artificial almost seems more natural than the natural. The city of Barcelona is full of Gaudi designed buildings. The design of the buildings are a little *odd* - may not be for everyone.

We stopped at a quaint little restaurant for lunch – tapas and sangria. I think our sangria count is up to 3…and that does not include the jug we bought yesterday that we have chill’n in the fridge! Haha.

Our day did not stop there. Off to the famous Sagrada Familia – the church they have been building for over 100 years. This is another Gaudi design. It is slated to be completed by 2026 – that is the goal. It was very fancy – to say the least. I even noticed a huge difference from when I was here in 2005. I will have to compare my photos when I get home. Just do not call the church *Sangria* Familia…they do not like that! Haha.

Montjuic Castle was the next stop in today’s fun-filled itinerary. Montjuic Castle is an old military fortress, that stands 173 metres above the port, with roots dating back from 1640. It was perched up on a hill for strategic purposes and we used the funicular and gondola to get there. The funicular was included in our metro journey ticket, but we paid an extra 8 Euros for the one-way ride up. The view was pretty amazing. We arrived to the top just in time for sunset. We lucked out…Sunday admission was FREE.

Back to the apartment. Time to break open that jug of sangria! Buenas noches.

Step count: 23 147

Posted by moorsey88 12:25 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

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